Just three games remain on the schedule for the 2018 portion of Notre Dame’s basketball season, with the results largely delivering what was expected. A 7-3 start for a team that’s been forced to replace major portions of their lineup at least holds the hope that the growing pains that are part of this rebuilding campaign have diminished.
The Irish had just one game on the schedule last week, but it was something of a milestone since they were able to win away from South Bend after dropping their first two efforts. In each of those earlier efforts, fades down the stretch were costly, something that was avoided in their victory in the annual Crossroads Classic.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
That clash against the Purdue Boilermakers wasn’t necessarily in unfriendly territory given the neutral Indianapolis locale. However, the need to win away from the rabid fans at Purcell Pavillion needed an official starting point and was accomplished in the 88-80 win on Saturday afternoon. However, the win ended up coming with a devastating price attached to that final score.
The reason is because the year for senior Rex Pflueger came to an abrupt end after he left the game with 5:36 left in the game following an awkward landing near the basket. The concern for the Notre Dame faithful ramped up even more when Pflueger immediately grabbed his knee in pain and had to be helped off the court, with a season-ending ACL tear becoming the ultimate diagnosis.
Pflueger had contributed seven points and served as the key playmaker by dishing out 10 assists prior to his departure. During the first half, the Irish applied the clamps to Purdue’s offense by holding them to 33 percent shooting from the field and 29 points on the scoreboard. Taking a 36-29 lead into halftime, Notre Dame maintained control of the game with a balanced scoring attack and with Pflueger handing out seven of his assists.
Coming out of the break, the Irish were able to hold onto the lead, never allowing it to get under four points. After taking a 66-51 lead with 7:37 left, Notre Dame withstood a late surge that chipped away at that double-digit margin. Holding a slim 71-64 advantage with 2:33 to go, the Irish then effectively delivered the back-breaker by answering with a three-pointer to boost the lead back up to 10 points. Their final 14 points ended up coming at the foul line, with Purdue managing to keep things interesting by hitting a pair of threes.
Notre Dame Standouts of the Week
Doing the major portion of his damage in the second half, Mooney finished with a team-high 21 points and six rebounds, with his clutch three-pointer giving Notre Dame enough of a cushion to hold off Purdue’s furious rally. After the break, he managed to toss in 15 points and grab five boards, with his offensive surge directly connected to his success beyond the arc that included two other three-pointers.
Finishing with 19 points and five rebounds, Harvey also flourished during the second half by scoring 12 and hauling down three shots off the glass. He hit two three-pointers in those final 20 minutes and has had multiple threes in eight of the 10 Irish games this year, an asset that’s something which can help spread the floor, especially with ACC play on the horizon.
Ending his afternoon with 12 points, four rebounds and three rebounds, Gibbs struggled all game with his shooting touch. He hit on just three of his 11 shots from the field and drew a blank on all six attempts from beyond the arc. The hope is that he can shake off a slump that;s seen him connect at just a 34 percent rate on field goal attempts.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
After three games away from South Bend, the Irish return to Purcell Pavilion for their final two games before Christmas, The first of these matchups takes place on Tuesday night against the 3-8 Binghamton Bearcats, who are dealing with a three-game losing streak after dropping a 58-48 decision to Youngstown State on Saturday. This clash will only be the second time the two schools have met, with Notre Dame hoping that history repeats itself. That’s because on November 14, 2014, the Irish coasted to an 82-39 victory.
Two nights later, Notre Dame will have no such history to fall back on when they face the 7-5 Jacksonville Dolphins for the first time. Jacksonville has thus far been a streaky team that’s won seven of their last eight games after dropping their first four contests. They’re coming off a Saturday night road win against Bethune-Cookman.